Anniversary Waltz 1970 – Help the Bombardier!

“They’re trying to kill me”, Yossarian told him calmly. “No one’s trying to kill you”, Clevinger cried. “Then why are they shooting at me?” Yossarian asked. “They’re shooting at everyone”, Clevinger answered. “They’re trying to kill everyone”. “And what difference does that make?”

Alan Arkin as Captain Yossarian in a still from Mike Nichols’ adaptation of Catch-22. Image: rob’s movie vault

History did not demand Yossarian’s premature demise, justice could be satisfied without it, progress did not hinge upon it, victory did not depend on it. That men would die was a matter of necessity; which men would die, though, was a matter of circumstance, and Yossarian was willing to be the victim of anything but circumstance.

Joseph Heller’s 1961 novel, Catch-22 characterised the blind terror, numbing futility, banality and sheer mindlessness of war through the eyes and experiences of a US Air Force bombardier who becomes grimly determined to survive it.

Yossarian is a young man with an attitude problem. He refuses to be a good soldier and expire uncomplainingly for a war he doesn’t understand or wish to participate in. Written with a searing anger and a ribald and at times, absurdist comedic flair, Catch-22 not only coined a term which entered the lexicon, but resulted in one of the defining works of 20th century fiction. Much imitated, often by Heller himself, the author never bettered what was his debut work.

Catch-22 was set on the Island of Pianosa on the West coast of Italy, and while much of the novel centres around attempts at bombing raids on the cities of Ferrara and Bologna, this region of Emilia-Romagna would ironically become the epicentre of the Italian exotic car business during the post-war era, a mecca for both ambitious US racing drivers and monied enthusiasts alike.

Lamborghini Jarama. (c) carsaddiction

Resident of St. Agata Bolognese, Lamborghini was in the midst of its gilded era in 1970, where not only was it giving its Maranello rival something of a black eye it equally could do little wrong in the eyes of the enthusiast press. Discontinued after a mere two years, the 1968 Islero was the very embodiment of a stopgap model, ceasing production in 1970 in favour of the Jarama, a wholly new model more closely embodying the raging bull’s next generation house style, as defined by Marcello Gandini at Stile Bertone.

Resembling in thematic terms (if not in detail) the earlier Espada, with more than a brief nod to Gandini’s earlier Iso Lele, the 2+2 Jarama offered some of the Espada’s virtues (if not enough it appears) in a slightly more compact package. Never rated as highly, it was built in smaller numbers (around 320 cars) and for a shorter time – until 1976.

Lamborghini Urraco Image: Tuttosport.com

Meanwhile, the same year, St Agata also debuted the Urraco, a compact mid-engined equivalent to the Countach powered by a V8 engine, Lamborghini’s first with this layout. The Urraco entered production two years later, and was well regarded by the press, even if it was overshadowed by a similar 308 Dino model from Ferrari the following year. The Urraco was superseded by the similar Silhouette model in 1976 and by the Jalpa in 1981, meaning the basic design lived on until 1988.

De Tomaso Pantera. Image: silodrome

Also based in the Modena region was De Tomaso. Alejandro de Tomaso set up his own car company in 1959, building a number of race and road going sports cars in between repeated attempts to gain control of Maserati. Having gained a name for himself with the 1966 Cobra-stalking Mangusta, he gained the ear of Ford management, still smarting from their Modenese rebuff, courtesy of the self-styled Pope of the North.

De Tomaso must have been persuasive, but with the blue oval unable to productionise their own GT40, a ready-made ford-powered exotic made sense. Dearborn took an 80% share of the company, also investing into carrozzeria Ghia, and Vignale. The Pantera was the result, powered by Ford’s own 5.8 litre V8 engine and a thoroughly exotic technical specification, it was sold in the US through Lincoln Mercury dealers from 1971 to 1975. The Pantera also enjoyed a long life, lasting until 1993, even surviving a questionable Marcello Gandini makeover (1990).

1970 Honda Z. (c) wheelsage

A decade on from the likes of Mazda and Mitsubishi’s debuts, Honda remained neophytes in the car business, one or two toe-in-water exercises notwithstanding. In 1967, Honda introduced the N. This small kei-class car, sold in Japan with a 354cc air cooled engine driving the front wheels in a body which was inspired by the BMC Mini, was exported to Europe and the US, fitted with a larger capacity 598 cc version of Honda’s twin, developing 45 bhp.

1970 saw a new derivation, the Z. Effectively a coupé version of the N, with striking lines and a far more rakish demeanour. Retrospectively something of a precursor to successive CR-X, Insight and CR-Z coupé’s that would follow over the intervening decades, the Z offered a beach head to Honda’s four-wheeled ambitions, particularly in the United States, where this model gave way in 1972 for the far more ambitious and commercially significant Civic model.

1970 Toyota Carina. Image: avengers in time

In Germany and Japan, four new models lines were introduced, both subsets of which would directly compete. In Germany, Opel introduced the technically similar Ascona and Manta, while in Japan, Toyota debuted the similarly related Carina and Celica models.

The A10-series Carina was offered in its home market as a 2 or 4-door saloon and 2-door hardtop. Two engines were available, an inline four-cylinder unit of 1407 cc or 1588 cc. Resembling the Hillman Avenger of the same year in silhouette, the Carina made its European debut the following year with a generous specification which included reclining seats with built-in head restraints, radio, clock, reversing lights and servo-assisted brakes. Long-lived by Japanese standards, it was superseded in 1977.

1970 Opel Manta S. Image: avengers in time

Meanwhile, the Opel Manta A was introduced in September 1970, two months ahead of the Ascona saloon upon which it was based. Intended to rival the successful Ford Capri, Opel’s Rüsselsheim studios penned a handsome and distinctive fastback design which employed similar stylistic themes from the Ascona, from Italian design (notably around the nose) and the round tail light treatment of the earlier Opel GT model.

Based on existing hardware, 1600, and 1900 cc engines were offered. In 1972 the 1200 cc unit from the Kadett was also made an option in some markets. What was missing however was a flagship performance unit. While comparatively few Capris were sold with the V6 engine, it served as a useful halo model; its long bonnet lending the suggestion of power, even when there was little to be had. Ford’s recipe proved a more potent one, the Manta being closer in regard to that of the Toyota Celica – viewed more as boulevardier than pony car.

Skoda 110 R. Image: bisnis

Also derided for being more about appearance than performance was the 1970 Škoda 110R, based upon the same rear-engined layout of the existing 100/110 saloons, but with an uprated 62 bhp version of the Czech carmaker’s four-cylinder 1.1-litre engine. With a four-speed manual gearbox, the 110 R’s performance fell into the rapid rather than quick category.

Styling reflected that of the saloon, although from the screen pillars aft, the roofline dipped sharply downwards in a more rakish fastback style. Early models retained the saloon’s single headlamp nose, but later models sported a twin-headlamp arrangement, which lent the car something of a Tatra in miniature appearance, but don’t say that aloud at Mlada Boleslav…

1970 was also notable for the tragic deaths of former racing driver and team founder, Bruce McLaren and Grand Prix ace, Jochen Rindt – the latter being the only posthumous World Champion in the history of the sport.

You have a morbid aversion to dying. You probably resent the fact that you’re at war and might get your head blown off any second.

I more than resent it, sir. I’m absolutely incensed.

Like the book upon which it was based, Mike Nichols’ 1970 Catch-22 movie adaptation, which was perhaps played more for laughs than was strictly necessary, was not an immediate success; overshadowed in box-office terms by the more accessible (and neatly resolved) Robert Altman directed, and equally counter-cultural M.A.S.H. of the same year. But like the book itself, it gained something of a cult following in the years that followed.

Meanwhile, the early promise of 1970, which began as something of a vintage year for new car debuts would soon vanish as decisively as Yossarian’s airforce comrades whose plane flew into a cloud, never to emerge. War after all, has always been a matter of circumstance, regardless of why it is being waged.

Read more about the class of 1970 here

Author: Eóin Doyle

Co-Founder. Editor. Content Provider.

9 thoughts on “Anniversary Waltz 1970 – Help the Bombardier!”

  1. A nice retrospective, thank you Eóin. Can it really be half a century ago? I am strangely beguiled by the Škoda 110R, which looks rather fetching from this angle:

    The frameless door windows and very slim B-pillar gives it an elegance of sorts that was absent from its Rapid successor, at least until you turned the ignition key.

    The Manta A was rather lovely, but was overshadowed by the Capri, thanks in part to Ford’s marketing power. It was also, perhaps, a touch effete compared to the overtly macho Capri (1300L notwithstanding).

    I hadn’t previously been aware that Gandini had been let loose on the originally beautiful Pantera. Here’s the unfortunate consequence:

    1. Freerk: I have to agree the Skoda is rather charming. It is regrettable that all that interesting east European ingenuity got absorbed into the uniformity of Western European engineering. I would love to have seen how Skoda could have evolved if perhaps it had retained its independence or if if had not been trapped behind the Iron Curtain.
      And somewhat inconsistently, the Manta A is a gem; correct, it is not so macho as the Capri eventually became. It was evidently concieved of a competent, capable tourer rather than a muscle car. With hindsight the Manta´s almost Italianate delicacy has aged bette than the admittedly charming Capri. They ought not to be compared really – Ford did a nice job with that car too. I suppose if I am picking Capris it´s the later 3.0 cars I prefer, precisely for their lairiness, posing pouch, medallion and chest-wig image.

  2. Interesting collection of cars in this article. Strangely, the one of these bunch I saw last was a Jarama, which used to be parked in the garage of my apartment building.

  3. Hi Richard. Freerk has actually maintained a dignified silence on the subject of the 110R and I’m the one who is irrationally attracted to it. Actually, it’s Garde/Rapid successor, supposedly with better sorted handling, also has a certain appeal:

    Time for my meds…

    1. You’re not alone in needing meds; I agree with you Daniel, particularly about the later model. I still think it looks neat today.

    2. Hi Adrian. Sadly, I think it’s a function of just how noisy and overwrought automotive design has become that a car that would hardly have warranted a second glance when in production now looks pleasantly refined and, as you rightly say, ‘neat’.

      Both Škodas, and especially the 110R, look highly polished and obviously cherished.

    3. I typed too quickly. The mustard coloured car has a tidy rear panel (it was probably a feature Skoda were keen to get rid of). If only they had been more neatly assembled it would have compensated for other shortcomings.

  4. The Škoda 110R is the car I grew up with. The latter, double headlamp model. A highly sought after model in our part of the world, or behind the iron curtain from western point of view. The sportiness was mainly in appearance and some extra equipment as the handling was, as long as I can remember being a kid, quite laughable. As with some other rear engines models, the nose was really lightweight, severely affecting handling. Every winter my father constantly loaded at least 50kg of extra cargo in the front cargo compartment to add some weight over the front wheels. Otherwise the susceptibility to wind gusts or some little road ice was quite frightening.

  5. That A10 Carina – I’ve been wondering for simply ages what the rear view of the X351 Jaguar reminded me of!! Thank you for putting out of my misery…

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